Photo of Chihuahua by _Chag

Small Dog Syndrome: cause and signs

Small dogs happen to be yappy, whiny, and aggressive far more often than medium and large size dogs. You have higher chances to come across a snappy Chihuahua than to meet a snappy Labrador. But why do small dogs develop all the kinds of unwanted behaviour so often? The answer is simple. It happens because small dog are allowed to become the leader of the household far more often that large dogs.
We tend to spoil small dogs, forgiving their mischief and misbehaviour because it often looks cute, while we would consider the same actions to be aggressive and unacceptable if they were coming from a larger dog. We validate their actions by allowing them to misbehave in ways big dogs aren't allowed to do. This teaches small dogs they can do whatever they want; this makes them think they are the ones in control. The "small dog syndrome" is developed because the owner allows the small dogs to show bad behaviour. Therefore, the "small dog syndrome" can be corrected by owner education and owner behaviour modification.
A small dog acting badly should be treated the same way you'd treat a larger dog. If you'd correct a larger dog's growling, aggression, or possessiveness, do correct them in a small dog, too. Moreover, small dogs need this correction even more because they will often compensate for their size by acting big and tough.
It's not always easy to treat each dog equally. It's so tempting to pick a small dog up and cuddle with it, to allow it on the couch or bed, to carry it when you walk, and so on. This, however, should never be done if you don't want your dog to become unruly and unbalanced.
Please read about the signs of dog dominance to know if your dog is trying to be or has already become a pack leader.

How to deal with Small Dog Syndrome?

If your dog is suffering from the "small dog syndrome", the first thing you should do is to reclaim your leading position.
  • Read the following guide to know how to become the alpha dog. Taking the lead role over a dog, regardless of its size, gives the dog a sense of security in knowing you're the one making the decisions, and they can trust you to keep them safe. Do not be afraid to tell your dog "No" when it is appropriate.
  • Train your dog the basic commands, and use them every now and then to reinforce your leading position. For example, command your dog to sit before meal time or before you go out for a walk. Do not give your dog its food bowl if it has not obeyed because you don't want to reward it for disobedience.
  • Learn about things every dog owner should know for the key points of the proper human-and-dog communication.
  • Provide your dog with a sufficient amount of daily exercise, both physical and mental, because physical load is one of the dog's prior needs regardless of the dog's size. It's a misconception to think small dogs don't need exercise and daily walks just because they are little and can be toilet trained. When a dog regularly drains its energy via positive exercise, it has less energy for the negative behaviour.
These tips should help you eliminate your dog's unwanted behaviour, making every member of your family happier. Including your dogs.
If you have a severe case of the "small dog syndrome" that cannot be fixed with the suggestions above, seek professional help.